Dave Parker was one-of-kind. Few players in the history of the game exemplified what it meant to be a five-tool player quite like him. He was big, fast, and he struck the baseball with a furiousity that was worthy of his nickname, "The Cobra." He had a talent that drew him comparisons to Roberto Clemente, and a cockiness that earned him the moniker "The Muhammad Ali of Baseball." The MLB Network will be airing a documentary on Parker tomorrow at 8 PM ET. I had the honor to screen the show called "The Cobra at Twilight," and I can tell you it is a must watch for Pirates' fans. You can see the trailer below.
They capture perfectly who he was as a player and person. From the loud, often polarizing personality, to the raw ability that allowed him to cash the checks his mouth often wrote, "The Cobra at Twilight" has it.
Dave Parker is an especially interesting figure right now as, once again, he was up for a Hall of Fame vote, but, once again, the Baseball Writers Association of America didn't see fit to inaugurate one of the greatest players of an era.
Now Parker is in declining health as he battles Parkinson's disease. You will see his struggle clearly on Thursday as MLB Network does an excellent job displaying the fight that is necessary for someone with that ailment. Even with his illness, Parker still has his trademark confidence, he can just no longer express it quite as boisterously as he did in his youth.
Unfortunately, you can't tell Dave Parker's story without talking about his drug use. It was a problem that has followed him long after his sobriety, as many believe that his involvement in the Pittsburgh drug trials of 1985 is the main reason he has not already been immortalized in Cooperstown. Parker attributed his slip in his play to his cocaine use and the desire to regain his MVP form as the reason for him giving it up.
One of the painful parts of the documentary details the complicated relationship that Dave Parker had with the city of Pittsburgh. So often we hear about athletes struggling elsewhere only to find a home in the steel city, but rarely the other way around. Listening to the story of how Parker left Pittsburgh only to find comfort and happiness in Cincinnati was tough. This was a man that the "Great One," Roberto Clemente, recognized early on as his replacement. The city's inability to fully accept Parker as their own is rare for a town that loves its sports teams and the athletes who play for them. The story of that painful relationship culminated in a rather beautiful, tear-jerking, redemptive moment that viewers expect from Hollywood. It's moving that, even with the trouble he had in Pittsburgh, Parker still calls that 1979 championship team the ones he "holds closest to his heart."
It was interesting to hear, especially today, how many of his peers referenced his greatness. Many of them said, with conviction, that Dave Parker was the best player of his era. With that being the case, how then did he only receive seven of the necessary twelve votes for enshrinement in Cooperstown? Unfortunately, Parker's next chance is will be in 2022. Hopefully Major League Baseball will be fortunate enough to be able to honor him while he is living.
From the MLB Network release:
Narrated by icon, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and longtime Dave Parker fan Chuck D, MLB Network Presents: The Cobra at Twilight features new interviews with Parker and his wife Kellye, several of Parker’s former teammates and managers, including Hall of Famers Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa and Barry Larkin, plus Eric Davis, Phil Garner, Pete Rose, Gary Sheffield and Kent Tekulve, as well as former Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dungy and “Mean” Joe Greene. Each speaks to Parker’s on-field dominance and brash, outsized personality that had teammates calling him “the Muhammad Ali of baseball,” and how Parker’s landmark contract in 1979 that averaged $1 million per season earned him intense scrutiny from both media and fans.
The Cobra at Twilight also looks back on Parker’s involvement in the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985 and how Parker went on to serve as a mentor and a leader for his younger teammates with the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers. “The thing that resonated with me more than anything was that he did not want me to drift into some of the things off the field that he did,” recalls former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eric Davis. Now 68 years old, Parker and his wife Kellye give an all-access look at their lives today, as the once towering ballplayer manages his Parkinson’s diagnosis, including daily exercise, medical treatment and regular doctor visits.
If you are free tomorrow night at 8 ET, do not miss "The Cobra at Twilight" on the MLB Network.
Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife